Publication of WRR-Policy Brief 1 Making Romanian and Bulgarian Migration Work in The Netherlands

The first WRR-Policy Brief by the Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) will be published on 27 January. The Policy Brief is entitled Making Romanian and Bulgarian Migration Work in The Netherlands.

Now that the Dutch labour market has been thrown open to Romanian and Bulgarian workers, the justifiable concerns that have arisen concerning European labour migation need to be addressed, as do the untapped opportunities. Doing so will improve the chance that the free movement of workers will be socially and economically profitable in the longer term as well. In addition, it would also be sensible to invest in broader cooperative relationships with countries of origin such as Romania and Bulgaria.


So far, the economic benefits of European labour migration to te Netherlands and elsewhere in the EU have oustripped the costs. Nevertheless, there is cause for concern, particularly regarding the lower end of the labour market. The Romanians who already work in the Netherlands are generally better educated than the Poles who have come here. But the group of Romanian workers also includes those with very little education or training, and many Bulgarian workers have a vulnerable labour market position. To avoid repeating the tragedy of the guest worker history, both government and employers must invest more in the socio-economic integration of European settlement migrants.


A government that wishes to make migration work at the lower end of the labour market must also hold up to scrutiny short-term contracts, temporary work, and payroll and own-account arrangements. Employers demand for labour migrants, but also the flexible structure of the Dutch labour market attracts labour migration at the lower end. At times, this involves unfair competition with the current labour force on social insurance contributions. Besides enforcing existing national and European legislation and regulations, new European initiatives are needed to counteract such arrangements.

Attracting highly skilled workers

At the same time, opportunities are being missed on the upper end of the labour market. Only about a fifth of all labour migrants to the Netherlands belong to the category of highly skilled workers. By investing in the knowledge infrastructure, creating a welcoming climate, and offering careers at a suitable level of skill, the Netherlands will have better luck attracting and retaining skilled workers. This may enable us to retain many Romanian and Bulgarian students (1050 and 1600 respectively) who are currently in the Netherlands. Some of them are enrolled in programmes - in particular technical - for which there is a demand in the Dutch labour market.

Any forward-looking policy on European labour migration that addresses both concerns and opportunities also requires broad cooperative realtionships between host countries and countries of origin. Alongside recent agreements with Romania and Bulgaria to enforce employment legislation, the Netherlands must invest in broad economic relations (focusing on the knowledge economy), for example training agreements concerning technical employees as well as university partnerships and knowledge networks. A further issue that should be addressed is the brain drain in the countries of origins. Such relations would also serve the interests of Dutch trade and industry, both in the Netherlands and over there. After all, the Netherlands is one of the biggest investors in both Romania and Bulgaria.

The WRR-Policy Brief was authored by Dr Monique Kremer and Dr Erik Schrijvers, both members of the WRR's academic staff. The Policy Brief builds on an earlier WRR publication Making Migration Work. The future of labour migration in the European Union (2013).

About the WRR

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) serves as an independent think tank for the Duch Government. It provides the Government with solicited and unsolicited advice focusing on the longer term. The subjects it addresses are cross-sector in nature and concern social issues that the Government is likely to be facing in future.

For more information about the WRR, visit